The solely wind-driven Ventomobile constructed by the InVentus team, a team of some 20 Stuttgart University students of Aerospace Engineering, came in first at the "Aeolus Race" in the Dutch town of Den Helder last Friday.
Racing the extremely stylish and lightweight three-wheeler, the vehicles of five European universities and research centres had difficulties to catch up. For their "innovative design" and public relations work, the InVentus team were also awarded prizes. The ECN-impulse built by the Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) came in second. The Flensburg University of Applied Sciences won the third prize with their very solid but slow Headwind Tricycle.
In this first time ever race the participating teams were challenged to drive directly into the wind, without tacking. During the preliminary races, the Stuttgart Ventomobile had already proven to be the most lightweight and most efficient vehicle among the contestants when, with its 130 kg, it succeeded in racing at 64% of the wind speed directly against the wind. From then on it was considered a serious contender for the win.
"Winning this prize was a great reward for our intense construction work during the last few months,“ said a thrilled Alexander Miller. Working with some 20 students, he and Jan Lehmann developed and constructed the vehicle from the summer of 2007 onwards with the support of the Endowed Chair of Wind Energy at the University of Stuttgart.
The students constructed the drive shaft and the rotor blades of the three-wheeler utilising the know-how at the Stuttgart University Department of Composites and Lightweight Construction. The experience of the students and the staff at the Institute of Aero- and Gasdynamics also helped greatly in optimizing the vehicle. The carbon-fibre-built tower can be turned into the wind, and through pitching the blades can be adjusted optimally to the wind speed. Via two bicycle gearboxes and a bicycle chain the power then is transmitted to the axle.
Matthias Schubert, Chief Technical Officer of the main sponsor REpower Systems AG, applauds the integration of this project into the coursework of the students: "The achievement of managing a big team over many months, and even making select construction tasks part of undergraduate teaching cannot be estimated highly enough! The enthusiasm the students show in renewable energies and the development of innovative solutions should serve the industry as an example for the development of new technologies."
Prof. Martin Kühn, head of the Endowed Chair of Wind Energy and mentor of the InVentus team, is pleased about the success of his students. "The expert knowledge the students acquired during this project constitute an unique experience which will prove extremely helpful in their future careers. The Ventomobile and its competitors represent excellent and creative examples of intelligent uses of wind energy," he points out, at the same time promoting a better use of renewable energies.
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